During our meeting, last week to discuss my printed images and the production of a Handmade Artist’s Book my supervisor asked me whether my images were a work in progress.  I immediately replied that yes and they will always be so.  I had interpreted her question as referring to the body of work that I am currently engaged in, that is to capture allure in my images.  I had thought her question was about my work as a whole, rather than a reference to the individual prints that she was pointing to.  I decided to reflect on her question and my answer in a further post.

As I research the question I search for a starting point.  The definition of an “art object” generally refers to a sense of aesthetic value although for me there are other forms of value that relate to art objects including commercial value and a potential value through its contribution to research for example.  The definitions also tend, not surprisingly, to refer to fine art practices such as sculpture, painting and other forms of making rather than the creation of photographic images.

After reflection and further consideration, I think my supervisor was perhaps asking me when a photographic image becomes an “art object”.  This led me to think about the process that an image takes once I download it from the XQD card.  I have spoken before about maintaining authenticity in my photographic work and as far as the processing of the image is concerned, I do the bare minimum.  This means that I check the white balance and exposure, add a small amount of clarity, adjust the vibrance and saturation as appropriate, make small adjustments to sharpening and attend to noise issues.  Although, I have to say that if any of these settings need more than minor adjustments then I would go back out into the field rather than try to make the image into something I may or may not have seen at the time.  However, I do not think that the image, even with these changes made, has yet become an art object.  It seems to me that the image must become something else.  It must be instantiated in some way – whether that be in the form of a print, a mounted print, or a framed print, or it may be in the form of an electronic image inserted in my thesis, presented as part of the Critical Research Journal on my website, or as part of an electronic book.  But was this what my supervisor was getting at in asking the question?

It seems to me, whatever the definition might be, that the Handmade Artist’s Book I intend to produce and present at my viva voce examination and the Thesis that will have been previously submitted are both art objects and will have, I hope, aesthetic and academic value.  The question, like all good questions, challenges thought and although the word “object” implies a degree of instantiation there is always a deep and continuing relationship with the original image.  I have talked about this ontological entanglement in previous posts and like the left and the right hand of a glove, only when the object is brought into direct comparison with the image from which it is derived can the enduring relationship between the two be discerned.  To be classed as “art” is a different and much bigger question.  I believe a photograph must possess either impact and/or allure to elevate the perception of the viewer.

Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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